THE nation begins today the third week of the lockdown or enhanced community quarantine that President Rodrigo Duterte imposed on Metropolitan Manila and the entire island of Luzon, starting on March 16, 2020 and prospectively ending on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.
We should all pause a moment to reflect and comprehend the travail and crisis we have been living through as a nation. This is one of the gravest and toughest crises that our country and our people have had to face in history.
It will be easier for us to cope, individually and nationally, with this unwanted ordeal if we understand the nature of the choices that have been imposed on the nation, and our communities,families and citizens by this health emergency.
The issue is important because the coronavirus forced on our national leadership the unavoidable choice of using extreme measures to meet and control the disease before it threatens the lives of millions of our people.
Among those measures was an order for citizens to stay home and keep physical distance from friends, neighbors and co-workers in order to minimize the risk of spreading this easily transmittable disease.
Among those measures too was an order by the government to countless businesses to shut down during the quarantine period. Those engaged in the provision of essential services, such as utilities, food and medicines, had no problem because they could freely and fully operate. Those involved in nonessential services, and products, such as restaurants, stores, tourism and travel, shops, and malls, had to stop operations.
The result of all this was the virtual shutdown of the economy and most economic activity and the choking, for many, of life as they knew it.
The dislocation and disorientation was almost unimaginable. The nation has willed for itself a wartime situation without being at war with another country. It was all driven by the virus.
Now, as we reckon the cost of the lockdown, it is estimated that the economy has been set back so sharply that the Philippine gross domestic product could grow no more than 1.2 percent in 2020 — a complete reversal from a decade of 6-percent growth rates.
How much farther can we endure this reversal of national fortunes?
With the end of the lockdown in prospect on Easter Sunday, April 12, there is today much discussion whether the shutdown of the economy should be continued in order to completely defeat the coronavirus or whether it should be time for the full operation of the economy in order that it can go back to normal dynamism.
Some have framed the options as essentially a choice between health and wealth.
This is a false portrayal of the choice before the nation. Our people and our county can have both health and wealth, and they should have both.
We can persist in our strategy of squarely fighting the virus, and then gradually step by step and industry by industry, fully return the economy to normal and let it heat up again.
The time must come when all our people should be allowed to go back to work and earn their paychecks and perhaps even more.
The health and economic crisis instigated by the coronavirus pandemic should not be allowed to also sow a social crisis among our people, for then our democracy and national life themselves would be in trouble.
Easter is good timeline to target the full return to normalcy of our economic, social and national life.
We should have the confidence to rise from this national emergency as a stronger, more dynamic and even richer nation.